The leading cause of erectile dysfunction among men 50 years or younger is not an issue of plumbing, but rather anxiety. Often times, talking things through with a trained professional is enough to remedy the issue. That’s the good news. The bad news is that our society is notoriously bad at talking about sex. “Most people wait way too long to come see me,” says Paul Nelson, a New York-based sex therapist and educator. “They have so much anxiety, fear, and shame surrounding sex, they won’t even book the appointment.” Those who want to avoid stepping into a shrink’s office might try shopping around for alternative options. If they’re lucky, they’ll find one that works.
Enter Richard Barker, “the Incredible Hypnotist.”
Barker has spent more than 20 years working as a hypnotherapist. Most of his clients come in for issues related to weight loss, or because they want to quit smoking. But a few years ago, he got a call from a man looking for a way to fight off erectile dysfunction. Barker, always looking for a new challenge, agreed and invited him into the office. After just one session, the guy had gotten his problems with performance back under control. This guy was so thrilled he decided to tell a friend about his appointment with a hypnotherapist. And then he told a few more. It wasn’t long before they started reaching out to Barker themselves.
“I don’t advertise this kind of service,” Barker says. “This happened all through word of mouth.” Today, he estimates one-third of clients come in looking for help with sex, specifically.
While at first it was mainly men contacting Barker for help for issues related to erectile dysfunction, it wasn’t long before women started reaching out, too. But, as Barker soon realized, they weren’t coming in to resolve problems with performance; they were there to find their orgasm.
In 2016, journalist Suzannah Weiss wrote an article for Glamour titled I Couldn’t Orgasm With A Guy… Until I Saw A Hypnotist. In it, she described how Barker put her in a state of heightened suggestibility; how the positive affirmations she received in his office helped ward off the negative thoughts she typically experiences in bed. By the time she made it back to her apartment, she realized it was her thoughts — not her body — that were robbing her of the ability to attain orgasm. “My job is to reprogram the subconscious mind,” says Barker.
As Barker soon realized, they weren’t coming in to resolve problems with performance; they were there to find their orgasm.
According to Barker, there are a few methods hypnotists can practice when dealing with issues related to sex. The first revolves around erasing problematic memories altogether. He says this approach, known as “amnesia,” is especially effective when dealing with erectile dysfunction. That’s because the mind clings to certain experiences as reality. If every time you have sex, you think about losing your erection, chances are you will lose your erection. Erasing that experience means breaking the association.
That’s the idea, at least.
“I tell my clients ‘’erectile dysfunction’ is just a label your mind has latched onto.’ I just treat them as if they don’t have it,” says Barker. “I put them into a hypnotic state and tell them what a stallion they are in bed. That gives them a sense of confidence, and that confidence overrides their anxiety. That’s what you want to aim for in hypnosis.”
Other approaches involve acknowledging the problem, but convincing clients it will never happen again. Or helping a client accept that issues may exist, but providing them with ways to prevent them from surfacing. “I try to be that little voice in their head when they need it,” he says.
Barker also invites couples into his office, though they often need a couple sessions to work things out. The reason doesn’t have anything to do with the complexity of the issue, but the idea of getting both parties on board helps with the process.
“They both need to be fully invested,” he explains. To better assess where each individual stands, Barker conducts a “pre-talk” with all his clients before the actual session. (“I don’t want to waste anyone’s time,” he says.) There’s also the issue of money. Booking a session isn’t exactly cheap; most run somewhere between $800 and $1,500. Those who are at all skeptical of the process might want to consider other avenues.
While the American Psychological Association (APA) does not acknowledge hypnosis as a form of psychotherapy, they do consider it an effective adjunct to traditional treatment. Today, there are an increasing amount of clinicians incorporating the practice into the treatment of a variety issues, such as stress, anxiety, and phobias. In 2014, the Society of Psychological Hypnosis released their official definition of hypnosis, dubbing it “a state of consciousness involved focused attention… characterized by an enhanced capacity for response to suggestion.”
There are individuals involved in the profession who came to embrace hypnosis before that official recognition came in. People have celebrated the practice as an effective approach to weight loss for decades. But it’s only recently that we’ve started looking to it as a way to save our sex lives. Barker doesn’t expect the trend to explode anytime soon though, namely because most hypnotists are trained in the “classical way,” that is to say, they use scripts. And there aren’t that many scripts dedicated to sex. Maybe it’s time for someone to update the curriculum.